The only pianists to be heard at Friday’s Olympics opening ceremony were Mr Bean and Sir Paul McCartney, neither of whom would list playing the piano as their principal claim to fame. But things are going to be different at the Paralympics, as Tim Benjamin explains:
The team welcome ceremony will feature The British Paraorchestra, described as a “global movement to recognise and showcase disabled musicians with extraordinary abilities”, and its piano soloist will be Nicholas McCarthy, who has a story as remarkable as Lang Lang’s.
McCarthy, a Londoner, born in 1989, started playing the piano at the age of 14. In June he graduated from the Royal College of Music with piano as his first study, having previously studied at the Guildhall School of Music’s Junior Department, winning the annual Piano Prize in his final year. Now, consider this: Nicholas was born without his right hand and forearm.
There is a small body of works for one-armed pianists, most of it commissioned by the Austrian Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his arm in the First World War and approached such composers as Britten, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Richard Strauss, and Ravel. Nicholas McCarthy has begin to extend that repertoire: a new piece by me, your correspondent, featured in his RCM graduation recital. Along with mainstream TV appearances (ITV’s This Morning, GMTV, London Tonight and the BBC’s The One Show), he is appearing at many distinguished concert halls (including the Queen Elizabeth Hall) – and is starting to build an international career.
Charles Hazelwood’s British Paraorchestra will perform at the Welcome Ceremony for the Paralympic teams at the Olympic Stadium on 28th August. His next UK concert is at Fairfield Halls, Croydon on 13th September.